Have you ever said something you later wished you could take back? Or gossiped about someone behind their back? Or told a lie? I know I have.
Poison in Your Mouth
James 3 warns us about a deadly poison that we must keep under control: our tongues. “For every kind of beast and bird, reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,” James says, “but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
What does the writer mean by deadly poison? In Greek, the word is thanatephoros which literally means fatal, death bringing, and deadly. Sounds serious, doesn’t it?
Yet how can such a small thing cause such damage? The tongue can’t really kill… right?
Of course, it can’t physically kill, but words can metaphorically kill the heart and mind. Everything you say has an impact on someone else, whether big or small. Your words can crush or encourage. Speak life or bring death. They can be a well-spring of hope or a source of grief. Everything you say either uplifts or tears down.
Blessing or Cursing?
Verse 10 says, “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not be so.”
With help from the Holy Spirit, we can gain some control over our words. But often our control seems short-lived. We speak words of “blessing” one moment, only to turn around in frustration or annoyance and speak words of “cursing” the next. We use our tongues for evil one moment, and good the next.
We must strive to bless instead of curse; spread joy instead of pain; and build others up, not tear them down. This is how Jesus calls us to treat others when He called us to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).We must strive to bless instead of curse; spread joy instead of pain; and build others up, not tear them down. Click To Tweet
Controlling our speech may seem easy to some, but in our culture today, the majority of people don’t even think twice about the words that come out of their mouth. Hurtful words escape and they don’t realize their impact. God’s name becomes a curse word and they don’t even realize the power of the words they just spoke.
For some, these things are just a bad habit. But bad habits can be broken.
We might not be able to tame our tongues, but with the help of God’s never-ending grace we can strive to make our words glorifying to Him. No matter how many times we may mess up, God always offers us another chance. And as Christians, we have so many biblical resources to guide us. If you look closely at Scripture, it’s full of helpful advice on watching your speech, and ways to find guidance in any issue you may face.
So let me show you five simple, biblical ways you can begin to control your speech.
1. Pray, and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance.
In Romans 8:26 the Bible says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” When Jesus ascended into heaven, He gave us the Spirit as our guide and counselor. Through prayer we can seek God for grace to guard our words in every opportunity we face. Believe me, the more you watch your words, the more opportunities you’ll realize you have to practice!
2. Look to Scripture.
There are countless Bible verses that point us toward kind speech, and a gentle voice. Just a few verses are:
Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it might give grace to those who hear.”
Proverbs 21:23: “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”
Proverbs 10:19: “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”
3. Pause before you speak.
This is the hardest for me, as I frequently don’t think through everything I say, and sometimes words will come out as harsh or rude, when I don’t mean them to be.
When you take that small step to think through your words before you blurt them out, it makes a huge difference. Ask yourself, “Is this comment needed in this conversation? Does it build someone up, or could it hurt them? Would I like someone to say this to me?”
4. Ask for accountability.
Find a trusted adult— maybe a parent or mentor— and ask them to keep you accountable for the way you talk. Give them permission to gently point out when you say something unkind, and ask them to pray for you daily.
5. Apologize when you make a mistake.
If you slip up and say something you shouldn’t—don’t worry, it happens to everyone— make a habit of finding the person you were speaking to, and apologize for any way your words might have hurt or offended them. Yes, it can be very hard to admit when you make a mistake, but it grows humility and being able to apologize is a vital quality to have!
Changing the way we speak to others definitely takes a lot of hard work. Truthfully, we’ll all mess up a lot, but don’t let your failures discourage you. God gives us endless grace so we can keep seeking Him and allowing Him to sanctify us.
When breaking old habits doesn’t pay off right away, remember that our reward isn’t here on this earth, because this world isn’t our home. Our true home and reward is in heaven. One day we will be fully sanctified, but until then, let’s keep seeking God to honor Him with every word we speak.